Camino Route Overviews: Camino Portugués
Are you considering the Camino Portugués? This route overview for the popular Camino Portugués will give you some information on where it starts (and ends), routing options, distances, key towns, when to go and some tips on how to get there.
About the Camino Portugués
The Camino Portugués has a long history and was traveled by Isabel, Queen of Portugal from 1271 to 1336. The route is interesting because it is part of the connecting path between Santiago and Fatima, two of the most important Catholic shrines.
The route itself follows the Atlantic coast of northern Portugal and Galicia. The route runs 629 kilometers (390 miles) from Lisbon or 245 kilometers (152 miles) from Porto to Santiago. The route transits notable towns like Coimbra, Santarem, Tomar, Porto, Ponte de Lima, Tui and Pontevedra. You must start from Tui (110 kilometers) on the Portuguese-Galician border or farther south to earn a Compostela.
Interesting Things to See on the Portugués
UNESCO world heritage sites along the Camino Portugués include Tomar, the University of Coimbra (and its lovely library), and the historic center of Porto. Other notable stops include Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Pontevedra, the monasteries of Poio and Armenteira, and Padrón.
Popular Starting Points on the Camino Portugués
According to the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela, the Camino Portugués is the second-most popular Camino, after the Francés. And 27% of pilgrims earning a Compostela report having traveled the route. Most pilgrims like it for the Portuguese food, forgiving terrain and the fact that starting in Porto makes the pilgrimage doable within a two-week vacation schedule.
By far, the most popular starting point is Porto. But folks also start in Lisbon, Tui and Vigo.
- Porto: 245 kilometers, 10-12 days
- Tui: 118 kilometers, 5-6 days
- Lisbon: 629 kilometers, 26-31 days
- Vigo: 98 kilometers, 4-5 days
And while those particular towns all have good transportation infrastructure, you can really start anywhere along the route.
The Camino Portugués has several different route options for you to consider. The routes split in Porto and come back together again in Redondela, Spain. You can also do part of the Coastal route and then cut over to the Central route. The guidebooks offer mapping and advice on how to do this.
Just to make things confusing for you, the Coastal route is also sometimes known as the Senda Litoral. The Coastal route hews closely to the coastline and is both quieter and slightly longer than the Central. It goes through Vigo before reconnecting to the Central route. Notable stops on this route are the Viana do Castelo and the cute coastal town of Baiona.
The Central route goes through the interior countryside and is the more popular route. Of note on this route are Barcelos, Ponte de Lima, Valença do Minho and Tui.
There is also the Variante Espiritual (Spiritual Variant). This option hangs a left after Pontevedra to follow the coastline before heading up the Rio Ulla river estuary. You have the option to walk the entire route or take a local boat for part of it. Either option will qualify you for a Compostela.
How to Get Onto the Camino Portugués
How to Get to Porto
Porto (OPO) has nonflights from New York (Newark), Toronto and Montreal. It’s also served from many European cities, including most of Spain’s major airports. You can also use Lisbon as a gateway city and take the train from there to Porto. There is regular bus service between Santiago de Compostela and Porto (but book ahead as the buses fill up).
How to Get to Lisbon
You can fly to Lisbon from the North American gateways of Boston, New York (EWR and JFK), San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Miami. There are also flights from numerous European airports.
How to Get to Tui
The easiest routing is from Porto. From there, you can catch frequent bus and train service to Tui.
If you want to use Madrid as your international gateway, you can take a 6-hour train ride from Madrid, fly to Vigo and take the train, or fly to Santiago de Compostela and catch the bus or train to Tui.
Camino Portugués Waymarking
The route is well waymarked although in a variety of styles. From the cathedral in Porto northward, the route is well marked with traditional yellow arrows. Some people report navigating out of Porto can be tricky. The northernmost 50-60 kilometers in Portugal also have the red and white markings of the GR11-E9.
Once in Tui, the familiar yellow arrows are plentiful and are supplemented by the kilometer posts of the Xunta de Galicia, which give directions and the distance to Santiago.
Terrain on the Camino Portugués
Being a coastal route, the path does cross numerous river drainages as they approach the Atlantic resulting in a series of ups and downs. The route is mostly through agricultural land but is interspersed with pine and eucalyptus forests. The route generally follows the important transportation route up the coast and is therefore never very far from these roads. The path has, for the most part, been laid out to avoid contact with major highways, the exception being the entrance to and exit from cities and towns.
When to do the Camino Portugués
Portugal and Galicia naturally have a climate dictated by their proximity to the ocean and as such have changeable maritime weather. There is generous rainfall which at times can be prolonged and heavy. June, July and August are the months with the least rainfall but these are of course the months with the greatest potential for hot, humid weather. May or September might present the best compromise.
There are a number of pilgrim-specific albergues in both Portugal and Galicia. Additionally, you’ll find the usual assortment of hotels, hostals and pensions/fondas in cities and towns of any size. Being a coastal area this is a destination for summer vacationers and pressure on accommodations becomes heavy in these months.
Camino Portugués Guidebooks
There are numerous guidebooks on the Camino Portgués that range from practical planning guides to personal accounts. Check out our guidebook page for an exhaustive list.
The Xunta de Galician has good resources for notable historical sites for the Galician sections of the Coastal and the Central.
More Camino Resources
Request your pilgrim credential from us in advance of your Camino.
Explore other Camino routes.
Be sure to check out our FAQs on planning your Camino and what to expect while on the trail. If you want some inspiration, check out our list of books, movies and podcasts which feature folks sharing their experiences.
If you have more questions, be sure to join a local American Pilgrims chapter or join our Facebook group.